Richard Paddock Interview:
This is File #17, cycle 2. Today’s date is February 12, 2016. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Richard Paddock who is going to talk about Taconic, the Scoville family, his family, Railroads, and anything else he can think about. We will start with the genealogical information.
RP:OK, Jean, I’ll give you all the genealogical information that you want. I was born in Hartford, Ct.
JM:Let’s do it by questions.
RP:Alright, you do it whatever way you want.
JM:What’s your name?
JM:What is your birthdate?
RP:April 12, 1947
JM:Where were you born?
RP:Hartford, Ct. at Hartford Hospital
JM:Your parents’ names?
RP:Charles Paddock and Elizabeth (Trust) Paddock.
JM:You are a proud only child, right?
RP:I graduated from East Hartford High School in East Hartford. Then my college education was at MIT. I got a bachelor’s degree there.
JM:Now I am going to ask you how you came to the area, and then we are going to start with your grandparents and go through the family.
JM:How did you come to the area?
RP:I came to the area because I summered here. My grandfather lived on Taconic Road. He worked for Orlena Scoville (Mrs. Herbert Scoville) (See #29 Herbert Scoville). We came here every summer. The reason we could do that is the Scoville family had given my grandfather an acre of land on the Channel portion of Twin Lakes.
JM:Why did they give him an acre of land?2.
RP:It was for 25 years of service. The Scoville were inclined to do that. My grandfather was not the only employee who got land on Channel Road.
JM:Do you know some of the other employees who got land?
RP:Jules Rebillard, (See #1 Paul Rebillard) Harry Smith (See # 105 and 117A Harold Smith), and William Reid also got property on channel road.
JM:How do you spell the William Reid? There is Reid, Reed.
RP:True William and his wife Hazel were the head of the Reid family that is now pretty prevalent in Salisbury: the Donald Reids and Daren Reid. (See tape #89 Charlotte Reid, First Selectman, and file # 85 Daren Reid).
JM:what was your grandfather’s name?
JM:How did he come to Taconic?
RP:The story of how he got to Taconic is one of these pieces of serendipity that you often hear about. My grandfather at the time and was working for a gentleman named John Ames Mitchell who resided in New York and Ridgefield, Ct. Mitchell went to Europe for the summer and in the summer of either 1919 or 1920 Mitchell went to Europe as usual; that meant that my grandfather had no job. He was laid off. Mitchell gave him a letter of introduction which he used with Herbert Scoville who was also in New York and Taconic. He came to work the summer months for the Scovilles while Mitchell was abroad. It was a temporary job. The key element that landed him the job was that he was experienced in the care and feeding of a car called an Owen Magnetic.
JM:What was special about the Owen Magnetic?
RP:It was a hybrid electric car. It used some kind of an electric transmission. The only one I know about is that Jay Reno has one that is operable. If you go on the web and read about it, it is a pretty crazy car. It had electrical magnetic components in it in the drive line. My grandfather could operate and maintain an Owen Magnetic and Herbert Scoville had one. Key point because I imagine that the chauffeur’s experience with those things were fairly scarce. So that got my grandfather to Taconic. The other event that just happened is that John Mitchell passed away before he came home, leaving my grandfather jobless. The Scovilles kept him on. It did turn out well. At that time my grandfather was a widower. His wife had died in the 1917 influenza epidemic which nearly wiped out his entire family. His wife and three of their four children were also killed in the flu epidemic, leaving only my father who was being cared for by one of my grandfather’s sisters, his Aunt. My grandfather’s straits were kind of dire. He was a widower with an eight year old boy and no job. The Scovilles were really very nice; they
rescued him. Despite all that Charlie was able to go back and forth between Taconic and New York with the Scovilles and he did that. Ultimately my father went with him, but we’ll get to that story later. Until my grandfather remarried my father stayed in Ridgefield with his aunt.
JM:Did your grandfather meet his second wife.
RP:He did indeed. The other thing that happened to him in the employment of the Scovilles is that there was a young woman there. Her name was Susanne Magnussen. Susie was an immigrant; she had been brought over from Norway, but she made an intermediate stop. She lived for a time in Glasgow, Scotland. The English that she learned had a Scottish tinge to it. She was brought over essentially, I am not sure what her title was when she was hired in, but her duties were essentially of a nanny. She took care of the young Scoville children. The two met and ultimately married so Susie became my father’s step-mother.
JM:Was there an immense age difference between Charles and Susanne?
RP:No it was not a huge difference. She was younger than he, but nothing significant. At that point when they got married the Scoville were going back and forth, Charlie and Susie took my father to the city. He went to school in Manhattan during the school year; then he came to Taconic for the summers.
JM:When did your grandparents that you knew marry?
RP:They married about 1925. Now nature took it course and Charlie and Susie had a daughter. At that time they asked the Scovilles if they could stop the commuting back and forth between New York and Taconic. Could they please stay in Taconic? The Scovilles accommodated them and they stayed. The Scovilles gave them a house to live in which is adjacent to the carriage house in Taconic. That became their permanent home once my Aunt Lois was born. The first daughter was Lois; they had a second daughter named Shirley-two girls. My father was quite different in age so he became “the big brother” to the 2 girls. My father now that they were living in Taconic went to high school in Salisbury.
JM:Did he go to the Lakeville High School in the Lower Building (Corner of Main Street and Lincoln City road Ed.)?
RP:He went to what is today the Lower Building.
JM:That was the high school. It became the high school in 1929 and that was the high school for ten years. Then the Regional school was built.
RP:Exactly his class picture was taken on the steps of the Lower Building.
JM:I know it is a small detail.
RP:It gives you a sense of where they were in time because Lois on the other hand, his sister was in the first all four years class at Regional. She didn’t go to school at Salisbury Central; she went to the elementary school in Taconic and then she was in the first class that did all four years at Regional.
JM:Do you know if she had Laura Johnson’s mother at Taconic School (See tape #39 Laura & Earl Johnson).
RP:I believe she did.
JM:That would have been Mrs. Holmes.
RP:There is a connection there.
JM:But it is important.
RP:It probably means that Dean Hammond was there in that school. I know he went to that same school. There were some other people that are in the history archive that went to that school.
JM:But I didn’t ask him about that because I didn’t know about that: I asked him about the Ragamont Inn. (See tape #128A Dean Hammond)
RP:I have a few recollections that Lois shared with me about that school. I have also heard other people talk about it so it is well covered. It was a building that the Scovilles built for the community as an exchange. When they built the mansion on Beaver Dam Road (Hill House) there was one of the town schools there.
JM:That was the first one on Beaver Dam Road.
RP:Yeah it was on the top of the hill over there where the Scoville House is today. They wanted the land so they made a fair offer to the town. They said if you‘ll give us the land, we will build you a new school. The town took them up on their offer which was certainly a good idea. The school in Taconic was designed by the same architectural firm that designed the Robert Scoville house. This was a professionally designed building’ it has a stone ground floor and a wooden upper floor. It had two classrooms in it that were divided by a movable partition that came down the middle between the two. They there was a way out to the back of the building which was originally shaped like a letter T. The stem of the T had the bathroom in it, the library and there was room in there so the kids could conduct activities during the colder months. It was surrounded by a playground. I have old pictures of it that kind of show the layout. Today it is completely forested around that structure, but it was originally built in the middle of an open lot.
JM:Did the children bring their lunch or did they go home for lunch?
RP:Probably some of each; I think that a lot of that depended on the time of year and how close they were to the school.
JM:I have been doing something on Grove Street School. Mrs. Senior, Lila Nash’s mother, lived across the street. The kids would trot over to her house, get their hot lunch and bring it back to the school.
RP:I never thought to ask Lois or Shirley that but as they lived less than a mile from the school they probably walked. In that era walking that distance would not have been an issue.
JM:Did the Scoville family provide electricity for the village or just their complex.
RP:The whole village. The way it evolved is in about 1903 the Scovilles decided that they wanted to electrify the two houses. There was Herbert Scoville house and Robert Scoville’s house. One of those is on Taconic Road and the other one is on Beaver Dam Road. They are not that far apart from one another. Apparently it was really in vogue in those days; people of means wanted electricity as this was the newest, neatest thing. They put in a hydroelectric power plant to power the two mansions. Some of the other structures on the estate were powered. They did not power the entire area. The system was an Edison system; part of the problem of powering a large area was that the Edison system generated electricity at 250 volts DC. That form of power will not carry through much of a distance. That was the reason Edison lost out to Westinghouse was that DC just doesn’t go from mile to mile and there is nothing you can do about it. AC on the other hand by using transformers you can extend the range indefinitely. In this case the main power was given to the two mansions and some of the ancillary structures. Obviously the power supply itself, the electrician’s house, the guy who ran the power plant and a few other buildings; all of which was underground. The cables are probably still in the ground. But that was amazing for that era what they did. In most places they just nailed the wires to trees but the Scovilles buried them.
JM:Herbert Scoville lived on Beaver Dam Road in Hill House.
JM:Robert Scoville lived on Taconic Road in the Stone House. Have we finished with your grandparents, can we go on to your father?
JM:You father went to school in Lakeville. What did he do for higher education after high school?
RP:Higher education was again we come back to the Scoville family. The children of all the employees got scholarships from the Scovilles. Annie Angus writes about that in her memoirs. (We have that book in the Scoville box of genealogy Ed.) She mentions that so I know she went to college on a Scoville scholarship and my father did too. It wasn’t really a college, but he went to a 2 year school for electrical training. In those days electrical training or electronics was a 2 years school; it was not a 4 year degree. Essentially it was a two year engineering school called Bliss Electrical School in Tacoma Park, Maryland. He went there and he wanted to do things electrical and when he returned he worked
for the guy named Elester or “Chet” Patchen in Lakeville. Apparently he had a radio shop and my father worked for him. He also did wiring. He wired several of the Scoville houses, he did some electrical work at Hill House and he wired the big farmhouse on Hammertown Road also.
JM:Would that be Grasslands Farm? (See file #1, cycle2 Charles Hines, and file #8 cycle 2 Thomas Paine)
RP: Yeah, the big house at Grasslands. He talked about how the corner posts of that house are 14 inches square oak beams. He said there were a lot of his drill bits still in that house, they just broke off.
JM:Now we get to you.
RP:My father left town; he had wanted to work for IBM but remember the era. He graduated from school and it was the Depression. Jobs are not easy to find. He had an uncle that was employed by Chancevought Aircraft in East Hartford. Chancevought moved out of East Hartford to Texas, but at the time that my father went down there his uncle got him a job at Chancevought. He worked there a few years and when they moved, he was able to get his job at IBM. So he fulfilled his dream. In the meantime he was rooming in with the family that rented space to his uncle. The aunt and uncle lived on the second floor of a duplex house. The landlady and landlord had a room for rent on the ground floor. They also had a daughter and you kind of know where this story is going to go.
JM:I would not have been that the daughter was Elizabeth Trust, would it?
RP:It would have been exactly the case was. The uncle leaves Chancevought and Betty and Charlie get married and move upstairs. I grew up in a duplex with Grandma and Grandpa downstairs which was a really nicer arrangement for an only child. So all I had to do to visit grandma was go down stairs. Kids will do that all the time. It also worked out because since I was a morning person, my parents were not morning people. They loved to sleep in. Every Saturday morning I would have breakfast with Grandma. I have wonderful memories of that. The two of us had a lot of time together.
JM:That is important;
RP:Yes it is
JM:It carried on the family background and tradition.
RP:She was an immigrant so I had a lot of time to hear stories about how she grew up in Europe and what her live was like growing up in the second half of the 19th century in Europe. In the advent of modern technology and Google Earth and all that sort of stuff, I have been able to visit electronically the town she was born in which is today in Hungary, It was Austria-Hungary then. I have to admit if I lived there, I would have moved away too. It is still not the place you really want to linger. Let’s just call it a humble town and leave it at that.
JM:Is there anything else that you would like to add about the Scoville family before we move on to railroads.
RP:I think you could tell from what I have said already the Scoville family’s generosity was singular; they were just wonderful people to work for and it wasn’t just my grandparents. There were others as well. They were good. My grandparents represent the tail end of the Victorian era. You hear a lot of stories about brutality between the householder and the employees. That is just not the way it was here with the Scoville family. I have done some research. I know several of the current generation of the Scoville family; I got interested in the family and they played a big role in my grandfather’s life and my father’s life and certainly I live now on that piece of land that they gave my grandfather so they steered my life as well. I always wondered how they got here; I can’t tell you that story but I have researched them.
It is interesting to know that another pair of brothers Jonathan & Nathaniel Scoville left Salisbury in about 1860 to conduct their business. They had a foundry; they were in the iron business which ran in their family. Even though they were gone, in fact one of them became the Mayor of Buffalo so that they participated in their adopted community. If you read Judge Warner’s Memoir or other things that we have in the town archives, those Scoville folks just keep popping up here in Salisbury; they left but they didn’t leave. (See tape #50 Jack Fisher)
JM:Scoville memorial Library
JM:Jonathan Scoville left $12,000 in his will to have a library built
RP:And there was a renovation project at St. John’s that the Scoville family was involved in that. The Scovilles were involved with the chapel in Taconic. They were in Buffalo, but they weren’t in Buffalo.
JM:They were benefactors to many people and in various locations.
RP:They were not vocal about it. The Scoville library has their name on it but there are a myriad of other things in the town which don’t. That being said, I finally figured out how they made their fortune in the iron business in Buffalo. I had the kid tell me about it, but I knew where the foundry was and he didn’t. That happens in families as time passes you lose touch. With my own family doesn’t know anything about their prior heritage either. I can’t hold that against them. The Scoville family played a big role in Taconic and in Salisbury’s history.
JM:Now we are going to talk about choo-choo trains. The railroad
RP:Now during the 1950’s and part of the 1960’s remember I am a summer kid on the lake every summer. At that point the trains still crossed. There were trains to Lakeville; they weren’t terribly
regular but there were trains. They crept across that causeway; they had the south end of the west lake. That is where we are on the channel so the west lake is the area that I was familiar with as a child. You really couldn’t miss the train going across because the sound of the diesel engine and that throb of the engine echoes up that lake so you know when a train is coming. We have seen these trains go across there and I became curious. I said to my father, “Why is there a train track there?” “Well there was a railroad, there used to be 4 trains a day each way, and I used to hear the whistles at night in my bedroom on summer nights when the windows were open. I could hear the trains coming through.” Now the house he lived in was probably only a few hundred feet from the station, maybe at most a quarter mile. You bet he would have heard the steam locomotives coming through on a summer night. There is a hill coming from Salisbury to Taconic; it is uphill. He recalled particularly that the trains would sometimes slip coming up that hill because of the grade. They would have to pour the sand on it and you could hear the rhythm of the engine really change and then it would go back to chug-chug-chug. The wheel would bite into the sand and come up the hill.
JM:When did the trains first come to Taconic?
RP:I got interested and started asking questions. Now we found out a lot about that railroad. The original railroad was called the Connecticut western Railroad. It was completed in late fall of 1871 so the first trains started going through Taconic then Chapinville in 1871. Rail service to the general area was much older than that. The railroad reached Canaan in 1841. The reason for that is that most of the railroads that existed in the second half of the 19th century in Connecticut went north and south. The reason for that is deliciously simple. The level ground in Connecticut runs north and south. You don’t have to travel very far east and west anywhere in Connecticut before you start going up and down.
In the late 1860’s a gentleman named Egbert Butler who lived in Norfolk, his house is still there, got the idea that an east-west railroad would be really cool. He would start it in Millerton and he would pick up the Housatonic Railroad railway in Canaan, pick up the Harlem there in Millerton, and he would pick up the Naugatuck in Winsted and he would pick up the Canal line in Hartford. He would stitch together all these north south railroads with an east west connection. It would give local businesses in the Northwest corner access to the Hudson River, the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound. It sounded like a great deal and it probably was. The problem was building a railroad over all those mountains. The other thing that impeded him a little bit in that era was that if you wanted to build a railroad you have to get a charter from the state you lived in which meant that Butler could not build into Millerton; he could go as far as State Line. But if you wanted to get connected to the Harlem Railroad, you needed somebody who had a charter in New York was going to have to foot the other two or three miles to get to the Harlem line in Millerton. He found a co-conspirator by the name of George Brown who had built a railroad from Dutchess Junction to Millerton. It ended on Dutchess Avenue in Millerton. It was a pretty simple matter I think they had to build less than a mile of track to get from where Butler’s stopped and where Brown’s began. They built a big freight yard which is today is where the fire house is in Millerton and the old freight yard. I believe it is called Century Boulevard. That nice big space back
there was actually an old freight yard. The Millerton station was near one end of that. That gets you now with the rail connections. The first train ran on the twenty-first of December, 1871.
JM:When did the Butler/Brown connection come along?
RP:That was the celebration of their completion December21, 1871. It led to kind of a peculiar situation as the trains from Connecticut had to go a little bit north at State Line and back into the Millerton station. There was a structure at the State Line called the “y” because it looks like a y. When the trains were going west bound from Salisbury and Lakeville they would go in the “y” and back into Millerton.
JM:What happened to Chapinville in 1915?
RP:I am not sure I have the definitive story but I know part of the story. I do know that the railroad changed the name of Chapinville station to Taconic in the fall of 1915. The reason they gave for that was they had too many” villes” and too many long station names on their route. They also had too many stations that began with the letter C. To make sense of this you have to remember that the communication in those days on the railroad was in Morse code. Morse code consists of character patterns; dot and dash, for each letter. C is a long pattern -.-.There were Chapinville, Collinsville, and several like Cherry Brook and a lot of stations that began with letter C so you have to send a long letter first, but the c tells you nothing so you have to follow it up with another character. An H is…. four dots. So you have another long character. Similarly o is —three dashes for Collinsville. They wanted to do away with these and get short calls. Well, let’s look at Taconic. T is a one dash-, and A is -. Dash, dot. Together TA is shorter than the letter C. That has to be appealing because the speed at which you send these characters over wire determine how much information will pass over the wires, the band width issue. In these days the band width was pretty scarce and they do not want to keep the traffic over the line running trains and making money with telegraphs. They do not want to waste their time sending call signs. That was their motivation then to change all these names. They changed East Canaan to Allyndale because it begins with an A. That did not work the railroad men in East Canaan said we are not doing that and we don’t care. However, the next year in 1916 the Post Office in Chapinville was still called Chapinville as far as I can tell.
I was curious to see if the ”Lakeville Journal” or the “Connecticut Western Hills” contained some kind of announcement that” Hey we are going to change the name of Chapinville to Taconic.” In reading through both papers for the entire year of 1916 the only thing I can tell you is that the June dispatch from the correspondent in Chapinville was labeled Chapinville. I couldn’t find any news from Chapinville in July and August. In September it came from Taconic. Sometime in the summer of 1916 the decision was finalized. It just happened. There was no hoorah about it. I don’t know quite how the Post Office got changed or who decided to do that or why, but I do know too from 1892 article in the “Connecticut Western News” that the Post Office hated “villes” also. They also hated two word town names post office names, like North Canaan. A few of the good women of Chapinville wanted to change the name
of Chapinville to Berkshire Gates. I am lost as to where that came from, but that is what they wanted to do. The Post Office told them in no uncertain terms “NO you are not!” They just didn’t want any two word names.
JM:I knew that the trains came into the Taconic station because it was a resort for the summertime.
RP:Taconic is unique; Salisbury was also unique in that it had so many railroad stations. Salisbury had more railroad stations than any other town on that whole line. The Twin Lakes area had Taconic, Twin Lakes and Washining. The Twin Lakes area had three railroad stations. Washining was like a bus shelter: it wasn’t a real station. There was not an agent, but the shed there had a flag. If you hung the flag out, the train would stop for you. If you told the conductor to let you off there, he would let you off there. The Twin Lakes station which was on the Between the Lakes Road was a real honest –to-God station. Taconic was also a real station. WE had 3 railroad stations serving the Twin Lakes area. The one at Twin Lakes became intermittent; it was open only in the summer. The Taconic station stayed open year round. It had a milk house so there was milk traffic in and out of that station and ice. Twin Lakes was a big source of ice. There were ice houses on the lake in those days. The trains were the way the ice got to market.
JM:When did passenger service stop?
RP:Passenger service stopped in the fall of 1927.
JM:When was the railroad ended?
RP:The railroad really ceased to exist by 1938, but it was death by one thousand cuts. The first thing that happened was that they took the track over the mountain from Norfolk to Winsted out of service. For a while the track into Norfolk was in service and they used it for ski specials in the winter. Then that track got dilapidated and that got cut off. Various pieces of the railroad lasted. The piece that lasted the longest was the stretch from Canaan Station to Lakeville which lasted until 1965. It was certainly not in good shape but you could ride a train on it.
JM:Why did the train go to Canaan? Was it a junction?
JM:Or was it because of Barden milk or iron or all three?
RP:All of the above. Canaan was your first junction point in Connecticut so you have the Housatonic Railroad there that you can exchange. To this day there are 2 “Y” tracks in Canaan so that you can exchange traffic both north and south. If you take it north, you take it to the Boston-Albany site, you have a track into Albany and you have a way to Boston and Springfield. If you go south, you can hit the Danbury and ultimately the Housatonic gets to Tidewater down at Long Island Sound. That is a major interchange point for freight. The next one over is when you got to Winsted, you have the
Naugatuck Railroad which gives you another path to Long Island Sound. It didn’t go any farther north, but it was a major interchange. Along this line as you think about it, we have iron coming out of Salisbury, a lot of it out of East Canaan. The Barnum & Richardson Company had a complex of tracks at East Canaan for raw materials in and finished goods out. Their customers were people in Winsted like the Winsted Edge Tool Company; the Collins Company in Collinsville was another customer: they were all on the Connecticut Western Railroad. The railroad hooked all these individual industries together and got the product from Salisbury and the rest of the Northwest Corner to market.
JM:I have done interviews where the high schoolers took the train to Canaan.
JM:They would get on the train and come home on the train. There were other interviews that talked about taking the milk to the Borden milk plant.
RP:Right The old Borden developed his condensed milk process in this area; it happened here. There were Borden plants all over the place, but they were always on a railroad. There was a milk plant in Millerton; there was another one in Canaan. I can remember the big chimney in Millerton that was there up until I think the 1980’s. There was a big chimney there with the Borden’s name set in the bricks.
JM:Shall we go on to the village of Taconic? We are going to start off with the Post Office/ General Store. Would you tell me a little bit about Frank and Muriel Onell?
RP:When I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, the store was operated by a couple named Frank and Muriel Onell. They were certainly pillars of the community. (See also file #8, cycle 2 Thomas Paine) Everybody knew them. The Post Office was there and Muriel was the Postmaster. They had a gas station there so you could get gas and in the summer you could get gas for your outboard motor; they sold motor oil. They had a pinball arcade for the summer traffic. This is great stuff for a kid. I could walk to the store. I could buy a soda and play pinball.
JM:What else would you want?
RP:Exactly! The other thing that they catered to was the camp. There was a camp on the north shore of the west lake called Camp Everett which provided a lot of customers for the O’Neill’s store and a lot of amusement for the locals because these kids were city kids. They were from New York City. So they had very little country smarts. Most of them were Jewish and they had a detectable accent; I should say a lovely detectable accent. They gave us a lot of amusement; we would do things to kind of kid them along. We were closely related to them. We weren’t malicious to them, we did not prank them, but there wasn’t a lot of interaction; there was some but not a lot.
RP:Two different worlds. They were memorable in that they had this really dreadful PA system that they used to wake the campers up in the morning. We would get to hear Reveille played through this tinny loud speaker and then we would hear, “All Counsellors on your porches.” then “All campers on your porches.” You got to know the routine but you got to hate that loud speaker pretty soon. It wasn’t a major disruption to your day, but you didn’t welcome it. They played Taps at 9:00 also. We would see all these kids; they had aluminum canoes and you knew they were coming because you could hear the paddles clunking on the gunwales as they came. A lot of times they were dressed up as Indians. To hear Indians talking with thick city accents was just too irresistibly funny.
JM:Oh yes. I am assuming this was a sleep away camp.
RP:Oh yeah. I think back about it now and there was no mischief. These kids for their part we did not prank them and they didn’t do things to us. They did not vandalize anything or cut down trees. They were just there having fun. I always remember the camp with no misgivings. It was there, the loudspeaker was irritating, the kids were fun and that was about it.
JM:How many buildings?
RP:I have no idea. They had a lot of little cabins which had front porches on them and that was where you had to go when the speaker said “Go to your porches.” I guess you had morning inspection on your porch. It was on both sides of Twin Lakes Road; Twin Lakes Road passed through the middle of the camp so there was an uphill side and a lake side campus if you will. The dining hall was on the upper side which still exists and it had recently been wonderfully renovated. It is a memory of the camp which persists to this day. Some of the cabins still exist under the new ownership. They are not in very good condition, but they are there. There probably a few dozen buildings between all the little camp houses. They had a dining hall; they had staff, they had a huge recreation building which was a couple of storeys high and had a basketball court in it. They also had a shower room which was furnished with lake water. I can remember that there was a big sign in there that said, ”Do NOT drink the water.” A kid from the city might do that; they do not know that it is lake water. So that is what the sign told them that this is lake water.
JM:I am going to go back to the Onells for a minute.
RP:Well that camp plays into the Onells because Muriel catered to these kids. The thing I remember the best is she had a sweet called Halvah which if you are a Jewish kid from New York, I guess you like that. It is like sweetened sesame paste. These kids loved that stuff and we thought it was pretty strange looking. She also had yogurt. I saw my first cup of Dannon yogurt in the 1950’s and I thought what the heck this stuff is? It looks like sour milk. Somebody said “It is sour milk.” These kids are weird; they eat sour milk. I don’t even know how the Dannon truck driver found Taconic, but by god Muriel got him in there. They had yogurt for those kids and they had candy for those kids. They would run down in groups of 15 or so to the store to buy their “whatever” they wanted and run back up the road
to camp. The other thing that Muriel did during the summer, she extended her hours of the store until 9:00 PM so the cam kids could come down up until then.
JM:and play on the pinball machine and buy their goodies.
RP:Exactly. The littler kids didn’t come; I think they cut them off at 7:00 PM, but the older kids and counselors had another couple of hours where they could come down.
JM:She was a good business woman.
RP:Oh she was because one of the things she did was she installed local young people as the clerk at night. So there was a good looking guy there for the girls to come down and purchase things from. Muriel was very good. The store itself was the old fashioned general store. She had a deli so you could get a sandwich; you could get cold cuts and cheese, milk and she had canned goods and some frozen food. But you didn’t shop for it; it was on the shelves behind the counter so if you wanted a can of beans, you told Muriel “I’d like that can of beans.” She would give it to you or if you wanted any frozen peas, there were freezers variously located in the building. Some of them you could see, some of them you couldn’t. She would get the stuff for you.
JM:What do you remember about the fire of 1971? (See file #8, cycle 2 Thomas Paine)
RP: I wasn’t here then: I was living in Kingston, NY, the Onells had retired. They were both elderly by now. You figured, good they have served their time and they really been an asset to the community, it is time for them to have some time for themselves. When you run a store like that you are either asleep or at the store. You have no time of your own. We figured -good they can retire and they can do whatever they want. It did not work out that way.
Frank killed Muriel and then himself in a murder-suicide. We will never know why. Right after that the store burned. It was close enough to do it to make chills run up your spine. This is creepy.
JM:Did they ever come up with a reason as to why the fire started? Was it electrical? Was it arson?
RP:I never heard the cause as to why the fire started. The Palcos rebuilt it. The business had been sold to Ed Palco. The structure that is there today in 2016 is the building that they built in 1972. They tried to run the store after they rebuilt it. The Post Office stayed there, but I think they underestimated the amount of time it was going to take out of their lives to do it. They just weren’t up to it. You really have to love that business to do it.
JM:It is like a B&B.
RP:Sure the other factor is by the mid 1970’s you have things like Patco coming into existence. It is very hard to keep a small store, especially in Taconic when you think about how remote it is. They did
have the gas station there, but that wasn’t much of a draw either. Now you have more of these environmental rules coming into play so the gas station became more difficult to operate I am sure. Those were all factors. I neglected to mention that the Post Office in the old store was just part of the store. It was not in any way sectioned off. The customers to the store couldn’t really get to the mail, but there was not locked door between the customers and the mail either. The Post Office was distressed about that and Muriel had to walk through the post office alcove sometimes to get you your fried chicken or your frozen peas. So even if there was a door there, it never would have been locked anyway. Also if you were in dire straits and Muriel liked you, you could buy a stamp on Sunday.
RP:Yeah you bet.
JM:What do you know about Washinee Woods Camp?
RP:Very little. I know that after the Camp Everett stopped operation, another group took over. Washinee Woods was on the lake side; they didn’t take over the uphill part of the camp. They conducted their operation on the lake side. I don’t know much about it; whether was a day camp or a sleep over camp, but I think there may be some of their people in the history that talk about it.
JM:The only one whom I have come across was Tommy Paine. (See file #8, cycle 2 Thomas Paine). I gathered that it was a day camp.
RP:That was my impression, but I can’t say that with any conviction, but I do think it was a day camp. They simply used the cabins that were there, the swimming area and all that. There was a lot of stuff on the lake side. They used what was there.
JM:How about what is called the Stone House or the community center? Tell me about that.
RP:there is an old stone house at the end of the channel across from the dam. I don’t know of anyone in town that knows exactly how old that house is. It is a Dutch stone house style. It is built out of a slightly different species of marble. The marble that we have in the Twin Lakes area weathers to grey when you cut it out, and if you look at the walls along Taconic Road. The stone house is not grey; it is kind of a yellow color.
JM:It is probably more like oolite (a yellow sandstone Ed.).
RP:So it is a different stone which makes the house stand out. I can tell you as I worked for the owner of that in the summer of 1964. I have been in the house before it was restored. The walls on the ground floor are fully three feet thick. They are massive to say the least. The south wall of the house included a smoking oven and a Dutch oven. It had a beehive oven built into it. The restoration did not fully restore that, but some of the brick work was restored when the house was redone in 1965.
JM:You said it was used as a community center?
RP:At least at some point in the game the Scoville owned it and they used it as a community center. They strung electric to it. Upstairs when I first saw it was one single room; that was the era they used it as a community center. The ground floor was really too damp; it would have been moldy in there so they used the upper floor. At that time there was no connection between the two floors, the upper floor and the ground floor. The only way between was outside the building. The second floor has a really nice fireplace in it and it has big wide beams and wide plank floors. They had dances and things like that in there. There was a piano so it was used as a community center. I remember I found remnants of the piano when I cleaned the yard up in the summer of 1964.
JM:This would have been used in the 1930’s?
RP:Yeah that is my impression before World War II.
JM;How about the Taconic Union Chapel? That was also used as a community center? (See tape #39 Laura & Earl Johnson)
RP:Yeah now in the 1950’s when I was growing up it wasn’t used. It sat there.
JM:It was disused and the town took it for back taxes eventually.
RP:I don’t know the story of its demise; but if that happened so be it. I am not sure what their excuse for tearing it down was, but at the time people said it was structurally unsound, but the crew that tore it down would tell you that that was not so. They had a heck of a time with that building. There are a number of different stories about what happened to the bell. I do know that the Jules Rebillard got the pump organ from there, a reed organ and Jules got that and tried to restore it. It was not a spectacular building; it was a little square building with a squat square steeple on it, but from my point of view it made a perfect chapel. It was a nice simple building.
JM:It was. My brother-in-law Henry Chiera who was the rector at St. Johns in the 1930’s and 1940’s used to preach there in the summertime. The brass plaque that talks about the people who donated money to build the chapel is on the back wall of the sanctuary of the United Methodist Church in Lakeville. I do not know how it got from Taconic to the Parish House, but it was found upside down in a closet there.
RP:I guess the Methodists were involved. Exactly which congregation held title to the building I don’t really know: I do know it was built essentially by subscription by a bunch of residents.
JM:That is what the plaque details.
RP:Laura Johnson had some wonderful pictures of activities they had there, Christmas pageants.
JM:She was talking about Christmas pageants and plays and that is where she was remembering as a community center.
RP:There was a carriage house out behind there on the little road that goes on the green there for whoever was preaching there could park his horse.
JM:Hillcrest School for Girls.
RP:This was something I learned about when my father told me the school he called a school for wayward girls.
JM:Actually it was not.
RP:Yeah I have come to learn that, but that is what my father told me. I found out what I could about it in Annie Angus’s memoirs and among other things. But where I really got an education about it was I conducted a bus tour of Taconic one summer.
JM:Oh that was fun!
RP: The current owner of the school was on the tour.
JM:Was the Sophia De Boer?
RP: Yeah she knew a lot more about it than I did and she was kind enough to clue me in. Then I started doing my own research and found that it was originally a farmstead (Dwight Allyn Farm Ed.) The house that the De Boers own was a wonderful old colonial. Again the Scoville appear in this. The two principals in that were Orlena Scoville and Mrs. Maude Haddon. They split their time between Taconic and Manhattan. The phrase that they used for the kind of girls they brought up there were “troubled girls” which I take to mean girls who have somehow appeared in court.
JM:They were girls that had appeared in court; they were girls that were like square pegs in round holes and they were girls that had horrible living conditions.
RP:I at first was very suspicious it being the first or second decade of the 20th century: I know what a troubled girl is! It was not a place to shuffle off your pregnant daughter at all. Although one of the pictures I have seen, there is a pregnant girl in the picture, but she is along. She is not among many more.
JMN:It was for girls between 15 and 22 and eventually at least the summer camp became co-educational. It ended in October of 1942?
RP:When the Institute of World Affairs took over the site. They had built beside the farmstead that is on Cooper Hill Road, they built a wonderful brick building that is on the Twin Lakes Road a short distance away.
JM:Is that the Schulte mansion?
RP:I do not know who owns it today.
JM:Well if this brick building is what you are talking about, it was dedicated in June of 1930 by Mrs. Anthony Schulte and her three daughters as a dormitory, but I do not know when it was built.
RP:Probably it was during the 1920’s. I hope to find that out some day. But that was part of the school.
JM;Then there was Willow Brook cottage?
RP:yeah there was another building, but I don’t know anything about that one. I know the De Boers have a lot of pictures and some articles so we have been able to uncover a lot about it. We know how it got to be in Taconic from New York because of Mrs. Haddon and Mrs. Scoville.
JM:Mrs. Scoville donated 3 parcels of land in 1919 for $1 to the New York Probation and Protective Association.
RP:Yeah I think they were very active in New York in that society.
JM:I have the folder here and the brochures and both ladies were on the Board of Trustees.
RP:It is very clear that they were the spark plugs that got that thing going and kept it going.
JM;I won’t say it morphed into but the property was eventually sold to the Institute of World Affairs. (See tape #123 Charles Cook)
RP>The ITW was originally very much up and running during my childhood,
JM:And that would be in the 40’s?
RP:That would be in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It lasted longer than that.
JM:It is still going.
RP:The Institute itself is still going, but not in Taconic.
JM:what can you tell me about the Institute of World Affairs from your recollections?
RP:I remember we had a lot of very interesting people that were there who were dressed differently. You could find women in saris walking along Twin Lakes Road. People who were obviously not run of the mill Americans; they dressed differently and they talked differently. It really gave kind of a world class fair in Taconic. You had these really cool people from other countries here in the summer. The locals could go to some of the events; they had some lectures and things there during the summer to which the public was invited. I also remember during the 50’s on probably on more than one occasion Eleanor Roosevelt was there for one or more of their programs. That was always big news in the Lakeville Journal.
JM:Did you ever see her in person?18.
RP:I did not see her.
JM:But she was there.
RP:But she was there.
JM:The story that I heard from Charles Cook was that Dr. Ralph Bunch and his son had been invited. Dr. Bunch was to give the keynote speech for something. Either before or after he decided he wanted to paddle on the lake. So he and his son went out in a canoe and it tipped over.
RP:Oh boy I know you would see these folks going to the O’Hara’s. They would walk up and down the road.
JM:What was the purpose of the Institute of World Affairs?
RP:The idea was world peace through communication. They had seminars for one another. I guess the whole idea was to get people from different cultures and interact with one another which makes sense to me. The way they got to Taconic was essentially World War II. They began in Switzerland in 1924 and Switzerland became difficult to access after the outbreak of WW II. So they came over here, figuring Taconic would probably remain accessible and it did. It certainly was. I guess they didn’t leave until the late 1980’s. They added on; they built, the structures are all gone now, or almost all gone, a building up there with a traffic circle with flags from all the nations that were attending.
JM:How many buildings did they build?
RP:It wasn’t that many- two or three and they used the O’Hara farm. The O’Hara farm house was there. Since the property changed hands after the Institute left, several different land owners tore down the school building and the O’Hara farm house too. A lot of that is gone.
JM:Is there anything else that you want to add to Taconic village?
RP:I would like to mention the fact that it also was industrial. At the end of the lake was a waterfall. Now you can’t really see it; it is obscured by the landscape but there is about a fifteen foot waterfall adjacent to Taconic Road. In colonial times it was a precious thing because that is energy. As early as the 1750’s, remember Salisbury begins life in 1741, we had industries there. There was a thing called Camp’s forge there which was a bloomer forge. That is a forge where you make iron by softening iron ore in the presence of a reducing agent and beating the slag out of it. You do not melt it. You can make pretty good wrought iron with a bloomer. There is iron ore on the lake where today’s Salisbury School boat house is; there is an iron ore mine over there. They have been filling it in for years and I think they finally succeeded. There is marble everywhere you look in Taconic. In the 1700’s there were trees everywhere you look so you have charcoal, marble and iron ore; thus you can make iron. All you need is a little water power to power your blast and you are in business. It is all together there right at the end of the channel. There was also a woolen mill there. Washinee Woolen Mill was built on that site and
they shared the water power. In that era the end of the west lake was not at Taconic Road. There was a water fall further upstream which is now on private property. There was a brook that exited that waterfall and came down and fell at the 12 foot drop there on Taconic Road. The waterfall at the north end of the lake was probably not very high, a foot or 18 inches tops. In order to extract all the energy from the water, you need a longer fall and they had that at the end of the lake. By the mid 1820 I would love to find out the details on this, but in 1825 Horace Landon built a blast furnace there. A blast furnace consumes a lot of water. Undoubtedly the brook would not have been suitable. It would not have provided sufficient water flow to power the water wheel and the blast engine which would have been a piston pump in 1835, not a bellows pump. What they did was they opened the water fall up at the north end of the lake. When I was a kid we called that little opening “the bathtub” because we swam there. If you swim in there, you will see the drill marks; you can see that this opening is not natural. It is manmade; it was blasted through the marble to enhance the flow out of the lake into the brook. The waterfront that I have is now the flooded portions of that original brook. I suspect that the water flow was insufficient also to power both the Washinee Mill and the iron works. Although I can’t tell you for sure that’s what happened, I bet the woolen mill moved down to Salisbury at the time the iron works happened. That is why we have Washinee Mill on Factory Street in Salisbury when it is nowhere near Lake Washinee anymore. But that is where it started.
We had first thought that Landon’s furnace had gone into blast in 1826, but Joel Cohen dug up an ingot that is dated 1825 so we’ll take that as the beginning of service of the furnace at the end of the lake. It lasted until December of 1897 when the pinion on the water wheel broke. The company who leased the furnace at the time chose not to spend any money fixing it and took the blast stove up to New York and installed it over there in Chatham at a furnace over there. That was the end of the Chapinville furnace, but it ran from 1825 to 1897 which was a good long time. They made a lot of iron there; they had rail service. When the Connecticut Western railroad was built through in 1871, they built a siding from the Chapinville station right up to the end of the lake there. There was a single track siding with a “y” at the end of it. There were box cars sitting there at the end of the channel in the 19th century. It is hard to believe that now. There were carloads of iron coming in and charcoal, marble and carloads of pig iron going out. The rails went right to the heart of the furnace, we;; not to the heart but to the loading bay so you could bring a charcoal boxcar in and spot it right in front of the furnace and shovel the coal right into it. It was very convenient for them. The structure that is there today is the Scoville power house. The Scovilles purchased the iron furnace after it was abandoned. They tore it down in 1899 and used that spot and the water power to build their hydroelectric power plant. That building that is there today is the power plant and it sits on top of the foundation of the furnace. The entire area around the end of the lake is loaded with iron and slag. In the woods down behind the old stone house and the power plant and the shore of the channel along Taconic Road is all iron slag, greens and blues. It looks like obsidian but it is slag. People who canoe down the channel get a surprise when they see these funny looking rocks along the shore. The Landon iron furnace was the source of all that.
JM:Was there a grist mill or any other kind of industry that you know of?
RP:I don’t think there was a gristmill at the end of the Twin Lakes, but there was one up at Sage’s Ravine. You have another waterfall there which you know is on the line between Massachusetts and Connecticut. That was industrialized as well. There was another iron furnace and there was a grist mill for sure. The other thing that was up there on Hammertown Road which gets to why it is called Hammertown Road was the Harris Scythe Works. The way you make scythes in the 18th and the 19th centuries was that you forged them which means you hammered them. You take billets of iron which were called merchant bars and you hammered them into shape. The Harris Scythe Works was apparently large, I have never been able to find any map but there are some vague descriptions about the number of buildings. They don’t really help you understand how big it was. It was a fairly large industrial complex. I can remember where the bridge on Hammertown Road goes over the brook; this brook is the same brook that comes down from Twin Lakes. When I was a child, there were remnants of a dam at that site so there had been a dam there on the north side of that bridge and a mill pond. There is no sign of foundations or anything out there in that field. Nevertheless there was a good sized factory there and they made scythes. Again as I said they made them by forging and the machine that you use for that is a trip hammer. Trip hammered are water powered and the artisans then heated the metal up and pounded it into the shape that they want. You are going to hear that hammering for miles around as these trip hammers just beat all day and that is why it is called Hammertown Road.
JM:Did they beat all night, too?
RP:Maybe not as they did not have much lighting in those days. I don’t know how much night work they did. Certainly they beat all day daylight. No because they made hammers there.
JM:The last question I have is what are the civic activities that you are involved in?
RP:I found out that when you ask people questions and listen to their answers, you learn. Then people start asking you questions. Life being the way it is I now find that I am the oldest rat in the barn. I have fewer people today to ask questions of now. Now people are asking me questions.
JM:It is a little scary isn’t it?
RP:It is very scary. Because of the interest that I have in history, I have joined up with the Salisbury Association Historical Society and with another group that is a lot of fun called the Friends of Beckley Furnace (in East Canaan). Anybody who knows any of the history of this area and Salisbury in particular, knows the iron industry was a big deal here. It was a big deal for a long time. As I discovered in a lot of the reading I have done, the impetus to settle Salisbury was not the wonderful farmland that we don’t have, it was the iron ore. That is what brought people here 100 years after the colony of Connecticut got started. People founded Salisbury because they wanted the iron. This is one of those things where you can keep learning about that forever, and I am.
A group of us got together and decided to help the state of Connecticut make some use out of the Beckley Furnace which they had purchased in 1945 under the encouragement of one Charles Rufus
Harte who was a civil engineer. He passed away before I had a chance to meet him. He got the state to buy the old iron furnace on Lower road in East Canaan. The state had neither the inclination nor the resources to develop it. The furnace almost collapsed, but a local group spearheaded it by Ed Kirby, and some Canaan residents, Fred Hall in particular, got together and formed a committee to save the furnace. They formed in the mid 1990’s. They were able with some help from our politicians to get some money set aside to stabilize the furnace and get the trees of it that were growing out of it. They wanted to turn it into a real asset in the park system. Times have not changed much; the State of Connecticut had the inclination but not the resources to really operate that. We formed a non-profit and a bunch of us old grey haired guys take care of that site. We make sure that the maintenance is done; that the grass is cut and the brush is kept at bay. On Saturdays in the summer, we keep a crew there to help people interpret the site. We explain what they are looking at, what happened there, how it was done, and what impact was that that activity had on the rest of the country.
JM:Having been on that tour it is a wonderful tour.
RP:People are surprised to learn is first of all is that there was an iron industry in Connecticut. When you tell them what the product was that came out of that furnace it was railroad car wheels. They were good railroad car; they usually lasted longer than the cars that they carried. Think about the time frame Barnum & Richardson started doing that in 1830. What is going on in America between 1830 and1900 is the Westward Expansion which is being carried out on top of wheels made in Connecticut. Certainly not exclusively but the best wheels that went the farthest were made here in the Northwest Connecticut; they were carrying the freight West. This silly little town had a lot of impact on the development of the country. Longer ago, not a topic for today, was the Arsenal of the Revolution where we played a pretty substantial role in the formation of the country.
JM:I think that is going to be Part 2.
JM:Thank you so much.
RP:You are very welcome.